Back in the heyday of heated tunnel-boat competition, both OMC and Mercury Marine deployed two-seat boats intended to give members of the media and special guests the chance to experience the sensation of riding in one of these wickedly quick race boats. It was a treat, on par with getting a jet-fighter ride with the Blue Angels.
This photo was recently unearthed by Mercury Racing Senior Marketing Manager Rick Mackie, who was often in charge of transporting the two-seater demo boat to race venues. This boat, a 1992 Seebold built specifically for Mercury, was used to promote the International Outboard Grand Prix from 1992 to 1997. The 18-foot boat was wood with a composite cockpit capsule. It was the first two-seater to feature five-point seat belts for both driver and passenger. The Mercury Champ race outboard put out 290 hp.
“Mercury was the title sponsor,” recalled Mackie. “We would go into the race site a day before the race weekend to provide rides to the media. Similar to F1 tunnel race boats, the two-seater was quick. It would accelerate from zero to 100 miles per hour in five seconds. Top speed with passenger was 110-115 miles per hour. You would pull 3 to 4 G’s going into and coming out of turns. I rode in it numerous times and there isn’t an amusement ride on earth that is as thrilling.”
Check out this list of premier tunnel-boat drivers who piloted the two-seater for Mercury while the boat was in service: Bill Seebold, Tim Seebold, Mike Seebold, Scott Gillman, Steve de Souza, Ben Robertson, Chris Fairchild, Gregg Foster, Chris Bush, Billy Joule and Shaun Torrente.